Wednesday, October 16, 2013
Foles handling business like true No. 1 QB
By Phil Sheridan
PHILADELPHIA -- It is a big job, starting quarterback for an NFL team. It is a job Nick Foles was thinking about and preparing for long before being drafted by the Philadelphia Eagles last year.
"You just learn through playing this game for a long time, 'Hey, I've got to stay steady,' " Foles said. "I've had a lot of people around me that helped shape me -- my parents, my coaches in college. They all instilled in me to stay steady and to be a great team player."
The big issue for the Eagles is whether Michael Vick or Nick Foles can elevate quarterback play in Philadelphia to an elite level.
Foles said he observes a strict "24-hour rule" after a game. If he plays well, as he did in leading the Eagles to a 31-20 victory Sunday in Tampa, he enjoys that. If he has a poor game, or the team loses, he doesn't let that linger for more than a day.
"As soon as that 24 hours is up, I move on," Foles said. "You have to be a man about it and move forward. No matter what -- if you throw four touchdowns, you have to have a great practice the next day. You can't go out here after a great game and have a horrible practice, because what does that show the team? It's just how it works."
Foles was named NFC offensive player of the week for his 296-yard, three-touchdown performance against the Buccaneers. He was back on the practice field Tuesday and Wednesday, apparently preparing to start again Sunday against the Dallas Cowboys.
It is a big job, but Foles doesn't know how long he'll hold it. When Michael Vick's hamstring is healed, coach Chip Kelly could go back to the 33-year-old veteran or stick with the 24-year-old Foles.
"Coach Kelly will address those issues about who the quarterback is when both of them are healthy," offensive coordinator Pat Shurmur said. "At this point, we will go with Nick, and then when Mike's healthy, then we'll have that discussion."
But it will be a discussion. Foles has played too well to be discounted. Truth be told, he played well during the summer competition for the starting quarterback job. It's just that Vick was otherworldly in two preseason games, leading Kelly to end the debate and name Vick his No. 1 quarterback.
Since, Vick has come back to earth a bit. He has been good, at times very good, but there was a troubling gap between yards gained and points scored in a couple of the Eagles' losses. In Foles' game-and-a-half since Vick was injured, that gap was closed. Foles threw for two fourth-quarter touchdowns against the Giants and put up 31 against Tampa Bay.
How much is it Foles, and how much is it the quality of opponent or another variable? Kelly went out of his way to identify better play calling on his part in explaining the Eagles' improvement in the red zone the past two weeks. Shurmur sounded a similar note.
"We didn't have as many bad plays [in the red zone] as we've had in the past, and you know, we hit on the passes that we threw," Shurmur said. "So we just played better in the red zone. The passes that we threw in the red zone Sunday, we would have called the exact same passes if Mike was quarterback."
The question for now is whether Foles can hold the job when Vick is healthy. Another big performance, at home against the Cowboys with first place in the division on the line, would make Foles' case strong.
But the bigger question is whether Foles or Vick are capable of elevating quarterback play in Philadelphia to the levels seen in Denver, New England, New Orleans and other outposts. That has to be the long-term goal as Kelly builds a program here.
Vick is 33. You have to think his ceiling has been reached. Foles is 24. How good can he be? For now, he is going about his business the way the great ones do -- play well in one game, then start working on the next one.
"I think there's a fine line between confidence and arrogance," Foles said. "I try to stay humble and strive to work better. You have to be confident. That's how you approach the field and how you throw the ball. But sometimes when you start thinking you're pretty good, you start becoming complacent. I've been there. I did it in college. You have a great game, you throw four or five touchdowns, you feel good about it, you go play the next game and you get smacked. And then you're seeing stars."